You might know gypsum as the white powder inside drywall panels. Gypsum readily dissolves in water, but here it forms sand dunes because no river drains the Tularosa Basin. The white color of the dunes does make for extra intense albedo, so be sure to bring sunglasses and carry plenty of water. Most of the wildlife here is nocturnal, but during the day you may spot a lizard species evolved to camouflage in the sand.
Update: As of December 20, 2019, the former National Monument is now called White Sands National Park.
Scenic views, sledding, Interdune Boardwalk, wildlife
Dunes composed of gypsum make a great destination for snow sledding year round, especially after a rainfall. It is fun to see children wearing T-shirts and shorts sliding down the sparkling white slopes.
Follow markers on the five-mile round trip Alkali Flat Trail that goes up and down dunes with views of the San Andres Mountains.
The white dunes take on the colors of the sunset if you decide to backpack or take the ranger-guided Sunset Stroll.
Spring and fall, since it can be very hot in the summer.
$5 per person or America The Beautiful pass
Mostly paved and the packed dirt road is drivable by all vehicles.
Only backcountry camping is allowed in 10 designated sites for $3 per person, but that is dependent upon whether the military is conducting missile tests overnight so call ahead or check the schedule online. Oliver Lee Memorial State Park offers a full service campground south of Alamogordo.
Explore More – What happens to the deep root system of a soaptree yucca when the dune it is growing on blows away?
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